Social media consultants serve as the face and voice of the business in social networks. They run social media campaigns, improve engagement and loyalty with social media posts, and ultimately try to drive sales from social platforms.
Demand for social media specialists has grown tremendously in recent years. CNN has even ranked social media manager as one of the best jobs in America and predicted a 9 percent job growth over the next 10 years.
With thousands of companies hiring for social media related positions, you might be wondering whether it’s time to start a social media consulting business. In this article, we’ll break down how you can start your social media consulting business in 6 steps.
Step 1. Acquire the Necessary Skills
No one will hire you as their social media consultant without the right qualifications. While having an active social media presence can help establish credibility, just having 1,000 Facebook friends or 2,000 Twitter followers doesn’t cut it.
Social media consultants should have the following competencies:
- An understanding of the client’s business and target audience
- An understanding of branding and the ability to maintain the brand’s voice
- Creative ability to increase engagement and drive sales
- An operational understanding of how to make effective posts across the major social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube). Some social media consultants specialize in one or more of these social networks.
- The ability to run paid social campaigns
- An understanding of the metrics of success and tools for tracking those metrics
If you’re starting from scratch, we suggest investing in online courses to boost your knowledge and credentials. Udemy offers social media management courses at no cost. They also offer advanced courses for as low as $10. Complete a course and you’ll receive an online certificate that you can post on your LinkedIn profile.
Step 2. Find Local Businesses As Your First Clients
Find local small businesses in your area that you’re interested in helping, and offer your services to them at a discounted cost. If you have no professional experience, you should consider working for free to build your portfolio. For example, maybe there’s an ice cream parlor in your area that serves interesting flavors, and you think they can get more foot traffic with social media exposure. You can target them. If you become active in your local business community, for example by attending Chamber of Commerce meetings or local small business meetups, you can find businesses in need of social media expertise.
Local startups and small businesses probably have a limited budget, and their requirements won’t be that sophisticated. For example, some clients will just need you to create social media pages, schedule posts, and track engagement across platforms. You may also be asked to engage with users commenting or sending inquiries through social media. These tasks are fairly easy to perform, which enables you to serve more than one client at the same time.
Step 3. Determine Your Rates & Financial Policies
Before you start expanding your client base, you must first establish your rates, payment schedule, and mode of payments. On average, a social media consultant charges $20 – $40/hour depending on their level of expertise.
As a freelancer, you will most likely invoice clients for services that you provide. Some clients are chronic late payers, and that could be disastrous for your cash flow. The standard payment term is NET 30. Offer early payment discounts, or charge a small late fee if payment is not received at the agreed-upon time.
As a business owner, you also have to think about hiring an accountant or buying software to take care of your invoices, taxes, and payroll. Establish this at the start so that everything runs smoothly once you begin operations.
Step 4. Start Freelancing & Choose Your Niche
You can launch a freelancing career working for a wider set of businesses, after you get some experience under your belt with some local companies. Sites such as Freelancer, UpWork, Fiverr, and Craigslist are great places to start looking for a gig.
When you get on these sites, you may notice that some companies are searching for very specialized social media services. That is because there are multiple niches within social media consulting:
- Generalist – Possesses surface level knowledge on content creation, community management, and ad management
- Data Analyst – Studies data and insights gathered from campaigns and provides suggestions to improve future campaigns
- Community Manager – Serves as the face and voice of the brand by engaging with customers, driving conversations, and increasing brand awareness.
- Marketer – Conceptualizes and manages paid promotions on various social media networks to increase customer growth, profitability, and loyalty.
Some social media consultants focus on one of these roles, and others play multiple roles. Once you determine your role(s), you must identify the types of businesses that you wish to serve. Will you specialize in retail, restaurant, tech, or services? Consider focusing on one area and expand to the next as you grow and gain more experience.
Step 5. Hire People to Help You
Once you gain experience as a social media consultant, you will be focused on the big picture: campaign strategy for different clients, data analysis, reporting, and continued business expansion. For other activities, you may want to get some help.
Here are roles that you should consider hiring as the first members of your social media consulting team.
- Social Media Marketing Specialist – This person will assist you in day-to-day operations such as scheduling posts, engaging with fans and followers, tracking performance, contributing campaign ideas, etc.
- Lead Generator – The individual’s main task is to find companies that match your client persona, look for the decision-makers, and then compile their contact information in a database.
- Web Designer – Invest in a talented web designer whom you can collaborate with in conceptualizing your website. You want someone who can create cutting edge layouts to reflect your company’s familiarity with the latest technologies in social media management.
- Content Marketer – The individual focuses on creating content to establish your company’s online presence by conducting keyword research, writing engaging blog posts, and getting your website to rank.
You might be tempted to hire an employee right away, but consider acquiring the services of freelancers first. Here are the advantages of hiring freelancers:
- Pay only for services or hours rendered
- Minimal training required
- Outsourcing from cheaper markets saves money – there are many virtual assistants and people who you can hire from overseas
- Don’t need to spend on worker’s compensation or unemployment insurance
In addition to these benefits, many freelancers possess multiple skill sets to keep themselves marketable. Instead of hiring for two or three positions, you might find a talented person who can handle multiple types of responsibilities. You can always hire freelancers as full-time employees if you’re satisfied with the quality of their work. What’s important is that you start lean with plenty of room to maneuver.
Step 6. Obtain Financing If Necessary
As you get more clients, you may need to add staff, travel more extensively, or otherwise upgrade your business. All of these things can come with a hefty price tag. Sometimes, businesses fail to grow due to lack of funds.
Fortunately, there are many startup loan options available out there. Some loans require collateral, but they come at low interest rates and longer payment terms. Some may not require collateral, but they charge higher interest rates. Options include small business loans, crowdfunding, and even business credit cards. While many people hesitate to use credit cards to finance their business, it can be quick and many cards offer introductory promotions with 0% interest. Yet another option is a Rollover for Business Startups, which lets you invest your retirement funds in your business without a penalty.
Once you’ve had your business for 2-3 years, many more business financing options will open up.
Conclusion on How to Start a Social Media Consulting Business
Preparing to start a social media consulting business is not easy. You have to build your business from the ground up like any other business. You need to make sure that you have the necessary qualifications before you can sign clients. From there, you can expand your client base, get financing, and hire people. There’s a lot of work involved, but it can be a very lucrative career in high demand.
Maggie Aland is a staff writer for Fit Small Business, a website that provides small business owners with information to help their businesses succeed. She writes on a variety of marketing topics, ranging from newspaper ads to how to market your business on Facebook. Before joining Fit Small Business, Maggie worked as a marketing associate at a niche publishing company.